Eight Little Numbers

Maddi gave me the hospital’s number the next day, and because I didn’t have any paper, I wrote it on my arm. Those eight little numbers travelled around with me all day, and sobered me up whenever I felt the urge to laugh. It didn’t seem right that I was able to feel happy when the world was no longer the same. And so I squashed down any sign of joy for the rest of the day, because I felt I was betraying my dear friend with every single laugh.

I was told that calling hours were between five and nine, and so I had a phone ready by my side at four fifty. At five o’clock, I punched the number into the phone. But it took me a good ten minutes to press ‘call’. I stared at the number for so long that I practically memorised it, and still I couldn’t bring myself to actually call. I was so scared of saying the wrong things.

She picked up my call. Her voice sounded different. I said hello and told her that it’s me calling. She must’ve thought I was hysterical, because my voice was of such a weird pitch and my heart was thudding so loudly. She told me that she was grateful I called, and I thought to myself that I was grateful I still had her to call. But of course I didn’t say that.

“How are you holding up?” I asked instead.

“You know why I’m in here, yeah?” she replied with another question.

Yes, I did know. But I didn’t want to say it. And I told her as much.

“It’s okay, just say it so I know what you know about it,” she said.

At this point I just wanted to run away and hide. I didn’t want to say it, because as soon as those words materialise from my mouth, it became reality. And I did NOT want to believe that all this was true.

“Ah... Maddi told me... told me that you... you... you tried to...” I stumbled over all my words, the truth choking me and suffocating me.

“Ah, okay,” said Wini after an excruciating silence, “Good, you know what happened.”

“Are you better? You know that I love you, yes?” I said lamely.

“I think I’m worse,” she told me, and those words invoked panic like you can’t imagine, “I hate this place. There’s absolutely nothing to do. They treat me like I’m a mental person. And such a small space...”

I didn’t know what to say. What was I thinking, asking that question? Of course hospitals don’t have much ground, or space for that matter. And Wini is such an active person, a born sportswoman.

“They had a treadmill though,” she said, as if reading my thoughts, “I’ve been running for the past few days, but they took it away yesterday. They said that I exercised too much and ate too little. I think they think I have an eating disorder.”

Please tell me you don’t.

“But hospital food is even more disgusting than plane food, so how did they expect me to eat that stuff?”

Phew. Please let this be the truth.

“But tell me, how’s everyone at school?” she asked me, steering away from that topic.

“We’re all fine, but we miss you so.”

It didn’t feel right to sit there and spin a yarn about us at school. I’d wanted to call her and to listen to anything she wanted to tell me, not for me to blab on about school as if it’s important. But she insisted, and I told myself that distracting her with funny little stories would do no harm. So I talked on, and before I knew it, an hour was over.

“I have to go now,” she told me after telling me a story about her childhood.

“I’ll call tomorrow,” I promised her before she hung up, “And I love you.”

“Love you too,” she said back, and then the line was cut.

The End

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